London, 10 February 2011 | AP/AAP
Australia’s Fed Cup squad will have to battle the Ukraine for World Group survival in April.
Australia, who fell 4-1 to two-time defending champions Italy in a hard-fought Fed Cup quarterfinal, will host the Ukraine for the the best-of-five series play-off on April 16-17 to retain their privileged place in the eight-nation World Group.
In Hobart earlier this week Italy’s Flavia Pennetta downed Jarmila Groth, Francesca Schiavone beat Samantha Stosur and the doubles also went to Italy with Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani winning against Anastasia Rodionova and Rennae Stubbs, who was playing the last match of her 25-year pro career.
Fed Cup Captain David Taylor is now on the hunt for a replacement for retiring doubles stalwart Stubbs.
With the fifth-ranked Stosur and world No.31 Groth likely to lead Australia for the next few years and Rodionova having already proven a worthy back-up, Taylor wants the likes of Jelena Dokic, Casey Dellacqua, Alicia Molik and Olivia Rogowska to press for selection.
Italy – Cup champions in 2006, 2009 and 2010 – will now take on Russia in the semifinals, after they posted an historic 3-2 win over France in the quarterfinals.
And the Czech Republic and Belgium both secured comfortable quarterfinal victories earlier this week to confirm the other semifinal match-up.
Meanwhile, the US team, who lost to Belgium in the first round last weekend without the injured Williams sisters, will travel to Germany in the hope retaining its World Group status.
In other playoffs, Spain will host France and Slovakia will host Serbia. While, Belarus takes on Estonia; Japan clashes with Argentina; Slovenia battles Canada; and Switzerland plays Sweden for promotion to the World Group.